Never Stop Talking To Your Kids
When I still had Rice House, I always used to say “For every new customer I serve, I’m gaining at least one more.”
Because I believed in word of mouth.
I learned this week that this applies to parenting too.
Sinterklaas Time Again
Noah and I had just gotten home from school. And as we took our coats and shoes off, we chatted about what he was learning at school this week. There’s always some “theme”…
As expected, he told me that the theme was “Sinterklaas.” After all, the children’s holiday is only a couple weeks away on December 6th.
*** SIDENOTE: If you’ve been following my blogs, then you know that Sinterklaas and Santa Claus are NOT one in the same. You also know then that Sinterklaas travels with someone named Zwarte Piet aka Black Pete. And it’s Piet who comes down the chimney bearing gifts for the children. And whether or not it’s true that Zwarte Piet was a black slave “back in the day,” what IS true and prevalent this time of year is blackface. In Holland and Belgium, there are white people running around with black afro wigs and big plastic red lips wearing jester’s costumes and blackface. They call this being Zwarte Piet. ***
Noah went on to tell me that he and his classmates had received drawings of Sinterklaas. They were told to color them in by their teacher. But he failed to mention anything about Zwarte Piet.
So I asked Noah, “And Zwarte Piet? Did you also have to color him in?”
“Well, we were told to color Piet however way we wanted to,” Noah answered.
I found it very telling that the word “Zwarte” had been left out entirely…
***SIDENOTE: During Noah’s first two years of school, there was no blackface to be seen at the school’s Sinterklaas celebration. The principal at the time banned it from festivities. Last year, however, under a new principal, blackface made its return, much to the dismay of many parents and children of color at the school. That principal is now gone, and we have a new one at the helm this school year. We will have to wait and see what this holiday brings.***
Choosing A Color
So I asked Noah what he’d done with Piet, in the coloring assignment.
“Well, I told my friends that Zwarte Piet could be a black man or maybe he just has black dirt from the chimney on his face. But he shouldn’t be a white man with black paint on his face pretending he’s black. That’s what you told me right, mama?”
“Yes, I did,” I replied, once I’d picked my jaw up off the floor. A week ago, I’d also told him that I’d been called yellow when I was younger. And that someone putting yellow paint on their face and pulling their eyes back closed, and pretending to be Asian, would be just as wrong.
“But my friends didn’t know how to color the chimney dirt stuff. So I told them to just use huidskleur for the face and black for the dirt,” answered Noah.
“Oh,” I said.
“I know you said I should say beige and not huidskleur, but nobody knew what beige was. So I just said huidskleur so they would understand. Is that okay, mama?”
I became quite emotional.
***SIDENOTE: Last month, Noah and I were mixing fingerprints trying to get the right color to paint a pig. He insisted we make it “huidskleur” aka “skin color.” I’d asked him what my skin color was, and what his was. I’d then asked what about your friend A—‘s skin color, and our friend F—-‘s. Noah got the point quickly, that everybody’s skin color was different. Therefore, a “huidskeur crayon” didn’t really mean the same thing for everyone. And that maybe we should just say “beige crayon” instead.***
Enough For One Day And One Is Enough
I took Noah in my arms and hugged him. I told him I was so proud of him for teaching his friends something new.
“But mama, only one of my friends colored Piet’s face in beige. Everyone else just colored him black.”
I told him that’s okay, and that one friend at a time was actually perfect.
I told him Zwarte Piet could be black. But he could also be white or beige or blue too.
I thought that was quite enough for one day.
Never Stop Talking To Your Kids!